Crime & Justice

Brazil police arrest dozens in illegal logging operation in Amazon

Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 2 (efe-epa).- The Brazilian police launched on Tuesday an extensive operation against an illegal logging ring accused of cutting down 9,000 centennial trees from the Amazon rainforest in less than a year, official sources reported.

Agents in raids have so far arrested about 30 people suspected of joining this criminal group operating in the state capital of Amazonas, Manaus, and in Manacapurú, in the city’s metropolitan region.

The ring leaders were a group of local businessmen who encouraged the practice of environmental crimes and planned retaliation directed at the commissioners investigating the events according to the Amazonas Police.

Sawmills, loggers who were responsible for cutting trees in native Amazon forest regions, vehicle drivers and public officials taking bribes were part of the organization, it said.

According to the Civil Police, the group extracted in just 10 months “around 9,000 centennial trees.”

Subsequently, a dozen sawmills pertaining to the criminal ring in Manaus and Manacapurú mixed the illegal wood with other regulated lots with the aim of circumventing the audits of environmental bodies, according to the Amazonas Police.

According to the investigation, 95 percent of the wood extracted was of criminal origin and was later sold to merchants in the region.

In addition to the 30 arrests, during the operation the police seized 16 trucks, five firearms, 200,000 reais (about $40,000) and more than 1,000 cubic meters of wood.

The operation takes place amid a surge in deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, which in the first three months of this year increased by 51.4 percent compared to the same period in 2019, and in April grew 64 percent in the annual comparison.

In 2019, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon grew 85 percent reaching 9,165 square kilometers, its highest level since 2016.

Civil society organizations blame this increase on right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s “anti-ecologist” discourse, defending the exploitation of the Amazon’s natural resources and looking to end the demarcation of new indigenous lands.

The questioned environmental policy of the Bolsonaro government was revealed in a ministerial meeting held in April and made public by the Supreme Court in an investigation against the president for alleged illegal interference in the Federal Police.

During that meeting, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles suggested that the government relax some regulations, while taking advantage of the fact that the press was focused on the coronavirus pandemic. EFE-EPA


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